CUNY Struggle Caucus Platform

 Why We’re Running

To challenge the status quo. Since the New Caucus, the union’s main political party, came to power in 2000, the gap between adjunct and full-time pay has widened; class sizes, tuition, and the proportion of adjunct labor have increased; and there have been no meaningful improvements in job security for anyone who doesn’t already have tenure. At the same time, the New Caucus has failed to organize and empower rank-and-file members, democratize the union, or mount a militant fight against CUNY management and New York state. Voting for the CUNY Struggle Caucus this April is a powerful first step in turning the tide of this inaction.

To democratize the union. The CUNY Struggle Caucus is committed to increasing the participation of all members of the union in all union matters. This should be accomplished through the enactment of concrete democratic reforms, such as proportional representation in the governing bodies of the union; an open, transparent, democratically controlled bargaining process; and term limits on principal officers of the union. This also means a withdrawal of funds from the failed strategy of lobbying Democratic politicians in Albany and investing those resources in building the grassroots power of our union.

To prioritize the needs of adjuncts and graduate assistants. The CUNY Struggle Caucus, in coalition with the Adjunct Project and the adjunct committee of the GC chapter, is committed to ending the multi-tier system of faculty labor at CUNY, and we will center adjunct and graduate worker demands in the next contract, including tuition remission and fully funded graduate assistant positions for all GC students and $7,000 minimum per course for adjuncts.

To fight for a broad social-justice-based union and bargaining agenda for the next contract. Unions can and should fight for more than wages and job security. Our contract should include provisions for affordable housing; the protection of immigrant and undocumented students and faculty; stronger mechanisms to address sexual harassment; accountable measures to diversify the faculty across CUNY and the GC student body; and non-cooperation with NYPD, ICE, and other law-enforcement agencies, among other needs. Moreover, our union should actively participate in organizing across a broad range of social-justice and labor issues facing our communities and other NYC unions.

To build a militant movement to transform CUNY. CUNY Struggle came together to support a renewed CUNY movement, and we will continue to push for uniting our workplace efforts with the perennial student-led struggles for free tuition, based on a strategy of direct action, including preparing this semester for a strike by students, faculty, and staff.

Primary Contract Demands

Graduate Center Student Workers/Adjuncts

  • A pro-rata salary schedule for all part-time faculty in proportion to the full-time lecturer salary schedules, with a minimum salary of $7,000 per three-credit course.
  • Genuine job security in the form of a seniority system based on date of original appointment and the number of credits taught over time.
  • Tuition remission and minimum funding of $25,000 per year for all GC students for the duration of their studies.
  • Adoption of all suggestions in Recommendation II of the 2015 Graduate Center Diversity Task Force, with accountability mechanisms in place.
  • Subsidized housing for all GC students at a maximum cost of 30% of their total annual funding (for example, $625 per month for a student with total funding of $25,000 a year).
  • Contractual provisions to preserve the admission and fellowship status of students targeted by changes in immigration law.
  • The demands crowdsourced and submitted to the union president by the Adjunct Project for the last contract.
  • Contractual provisions to reverse the downward trend in the number of graduate students  admitted in each successive cohort of each program.
  • Paid pedagogical training for all students in their first year.
  • Limits on and standardization of graduate-assistant workloads.
  • Contractual provisions for the grievance of all forms of harassment and discrimination.
  • Department-by-department labor-management committees to support GC student workers negotiating directly with Executive Officers on departmental issues.

GC-chapter wide

  • Adoption of all suggestions in Recommendation I of the 2015 Graduate Center Diversity Task Force, with accountability mechanisms in place.
  • Full accessibility to GC facilities for people with mobility issues and visual disabilities to be developed based on the participation of those directly impacted, and fought for by the union at the bargaining table.
  • Close consultation with HEOs and other titles to formulate demands and maximize both participation and cross-title solidarity.

Primary Union Reforms

  • Proportional representation of adjuncts, full-time faculty, HEOs, graduate assistants, and other titles on the PSC Executive Council, Delegate Assembly, chapter executive committees, and bargaining team.
  • A transparent, democratically controlled contract-bargaining process with bargaining sessions open to all.
  • A two-term limit for the PSC president and all principal officers, and a reduction of the total salary of the PSC president to the mean salary of the bargaining unit, with any extra income donated to the PSC.
  • All union elections and votes conducted electronically to ensure maximum democratic participation.
  • An end to the four-month window between when a member joins the union and can vote, and an end to the one-year window between joining and running for office
  • A shift in funds and strategy from electoral politics and legislative lobbying to a strategy of grassroots organizing and developing member power that includes release time for rank-and-file organizers, more paid full-time organizers, more member education and outreach from the union about the political situation at CUNY, and an overall more substantial presence on CUNY campuses.

For more info on CUNY Struggle and our campaign, go here: https://cunystruggle.org/category/slate/

#VoteStruggle

 

Non-Negotiable: Adjunct Parity in the Next PSC-CUNY Contract

A Joint Statement by the PSC GC Adjunct Committee, the Adjunct Project, and CUNY Struggle

In the Fall, members of the CUNY Struggle Caucus teamed up with other GC activists to draft a list of invariant demands for the coming contract. Now we are mounting a challenge to the New Caucus in the Spring election to make sure they’re backed up by a winning strategy. 

January 30, 2017

Adjunct parity can mean either a complete end to the multi-tier system of faculty labor (such as in the case of Vancouver Community College, where all faculty do the same work, have the same working conditions, and are on the same salary schedule, pro-rated for those working less than full time) or a pro-rata salary schedule for “part-time” faculty so that their wages are in proportion to that of full-time lecturers (as in the case of the California State University). Although many of us would like to see the “Vancouver model” in place at the City University of New York, where adjuncts make roughly 29% to 38% of full-time salaries, have little to no job security, and are largely sidelined from service and research, we recognize that the U.S. labor context and the much-larger scale of CUNY complicate the achievement of that goal.

Nevertheless, as we—a group of graduate students at the Graduate Center working as both graduate assistants and adjuncts—have discussed adjunct parity over the last few months, we have come to agreement on the following bottom-line, non-negotiable demands for the upcoming round of bargaining vis-à-vis the expiration of the current PSC-CUNY contract in November 2017:

  1. A pro-rata salary schedule for all part-time faculty in proportion to the full-time lecturer salary schedules, with a minimum salary of $7,000 per three-credit course;
  2. Genuine job security in the form of a seniority system based on date of original appointment and the number of credits taught over time;
  3. Representation of part-time faculty and graduate employees on the bargaining committee in proportion to their numbers in the overall bargaining unit.

Although the first two demands would not end the multi-tier system of faculty labor at CUNY, they would produce substantial movement toward parity between the salary and job security of part-time and full-time faculty. The last demand, meanwhile, would produce parity in the bargaining committee, which we hope would help the overall bargaining committee hold fast to the first two demands.

In solidarity,

Graduate Center Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts of:

the PSC GC Adjunct Committee

the Adjunct Project

CUNY Struggle

It’s called “collective” bargaining for a reason

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Everyone knows these are turbulent times for academia. Full-time positions are scarce, student debt has ballooned, and per capita funding for public education has shriveled. You could try elbowing past your colleagues to make your way in the world, but by now we all know that there won’t be room at the top for even the most ruthless among us. The other option is to see these issues as related and unite to transform our working conditions, and in the process reimagine what a university could look like when faculty, students and staff come together to reject the austerity of the administration and the state.

Collective bargaining, when backed by broad-based support, can compel such a transformation. Under the current New Caucus leadership, most PSC members have no control over who bargains or what they bargain for, and almost none of us have any idea what happens behind the scenes. The PSC’s bargaining team is mostly made up of full-timers representing full-timer interests, even though adjuncts form the majority of the union. And while the New Caucus leadership likes to performatively solicit suggestions from its membership about contract demands, they are not held accountable for following through on pressing most of these demands. And so they don’t.

As we approach a new contract fight, the New Caucus slate at the Graduate Center wants you to vote them back into power by advertising the contract demand of $7k per course for adjuncts (which many in the CUNY Struggle caucus have been pushing for years!). Yet they are prepared to make the same mistake that sold out the adjuncts last time: giving all their power over to the PSC leadership, while keeping the vast majority of our union out of the loop. Indeed, they do not support making bargaining sessions open, so that everyone in the CUNY community can know what’s going on behind closed doors. They have also refused to support efforts to make the bargaining team proportionally representative of the bargaining unit, which would dramatically increase the number of adjuncts present at the negotiating table. Without these basic democratic reforms to hold the PSC leadership accountable, it is very unlikely that the next contract negotiation will yield anything different than what we’ve gotten already: a contract negotiated in secret that yields below-inflation flat-rate raises, yet again increasing the gulf between adjunct (and graduate assistant), and full-time pay. This is not a reform. This is the status quo, and it has failed us .

When the bargaining for our next contract begins, the CUNY Struggle Caucus demands all contract negotiations be open to all members of the CUNY community. We reject the idea that bargaining requires ‘experts’ that must operate in secret. We think that demands should be made at the bargaining table and backed up in the street. We also want the bargaining team to reflect the bargaining unit, through proportional representation, empowering adjunct and graduate assistant leaders to make their demands in the room, rather than be continually represented by full-timers who claim to know what’s best (and what’s possible) for them.

Further, we demand that key CUNY grievances like diversity in hiring and admissions, the quality of CUNY’s facilities, class size, accessibility issues, tuition remission, and yes – $7k for adjuncts – should be on the table in these negotiations. Indeed, collective bargaining is not just about bread and butter issues: as a union, we can put forward a broad social justice agenda that includes enforcing CUNY as a sanctuary campus, ensuring recourse in cases of sexual harassment, etc. Nothing is off the table until the union takes it off the table. Whereas the New Caucus has understood bargaining in a very narrow way, CUNY Struggle sees bargaining as a vehicle for expressing the demands of members as a collectivity. And that is why if elected, we will mount a campaign to challenge the Taylor Law, which was designed to put our union and others like it in exactly the position we are in — isolated, dependent on elected officials, and stripped of its only real weapon.

In other words, collective bargaining is about more than sending in your most experienced and savvy negotiator and trusting they do their best: it’s about ensuring that that the team of negotiators speak at the behest of “the collective,” not just on their behalf. This can only be achieved by mobilizing our members and forging ties with other unions, with our students and with the working families of New York City.

Transparency, proportional representation, a broad-based social justice bargaining agenda, and a renewed CUNY movement built on the model of horizontalism are not simply abstract principles or slogans to us, they are a practical necessity, and the difference between winning or continuing to lose. These are the ingredients of an invigorated strategy which will enfranchise thousands of members in our union to participate and to contribute their perspectives and power to the contract struggle, and beyond.

We demand a change in how we fight and what we fight for. The CUNY Struggle Caucus is challenging the status quo.

 

Meet the CUNY Struggle Caucus!

A CUNY Struggle caucus slate is running in the Graduate Center chapter election, and one CS caucus member is running solo in the Hunter chapter election. Meet the candidates!

Graduate Center slate:

Erin Cully, vice-chair & alternate delegate

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Erin is a third-year PhD student in History at the GC and teaches American History at Brooklyn College, where she also organizes with adjuncts. Her work focuses on US banking and finance in the late 20th century. She is an international student, a Doctoral Students’ Council representative, a PSC shop steward and a peer mentor in her department. She is an editor of cunystruggle.org and a co-author of CUNY at the Crossroads: A History of the Mess We’re In and How to Get Out of It

 

Andrew Anastasi, delegate

IMG_5152-1Andrew is a second-year PhD student in Sociology at the Graduate Center and teaches social theory at Queens College. He is also a member of the Viewpoint Magazine editorial collective. Before graduate school he worked in D.C. public high schools and supported youth-led campaigns to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

 

Jarrod Shanahan, delegate

IMG_5961-2Jarrod (Environmental Psychology) is an activist-scholar, author, essayist, zinester, and political agitator. Jarrod has published over a dozen literary and political zines, co-edits the creative nonfiction journal Hard Crackers, and is a member of the Insurgent Notes collective. Jarrod has also published over two dozen essays and articles, translated into at least four languages, in venues including Vice, The New Inquiry, and Gothamist. Maximum Rocknroll called Jarrod’s “Satan Was So Over it” zine “witty, well executed, and still very punk” and The Industrial Worker called Jarrod’s novella It’s a Tough Economy! “a commendable contribution toward what working class literature could and should aspire.” Jarrod is a founder of CUNY Struggle, and is a member of the #CLOSErikers campaign.

 

Chris Natoli, delegate

unnamed-1Chris is a second-year graduate assistant in the math department, an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College, and the PSC shop steward in the Graduate Center’s math department. He cares about labor, democratic unionism, anti-gentrification and housing struggles in NYC, and equal access to free quality education. In college he was involved in organizing education enrichment programs for high school students on the South Side of Chicago.

 

Shelley Buchbinder, delegate

Me outsideShelley is a PhD candidate in environmental psychology. She teaches in urban studies at Queens College courses including Political Economy of Food and Trashing the Global City. Her dissertation focuses on economically restructured small places, contracted social services, and training as dispossession. Previously she worked for contracted nonprofits focusing on housing, training, and informal education.

 

Jakob Schneider, delegate

Schneider_headJakob Schneider is a second-year doctoral student in the Environmental Psychology program. He teaches at Hunter College in the Urban Policy and Planning Department, and is a research associate at the Housing Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center. At present, he is conducting research in Chicago with a group that is employing a movement-based strategy to protect residents from eviction and reclaim bank-owned abandoned properties to provide housing to homeless families on the city’s South Side.

 

Wilson Sherwin, delegate

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Wilson Sherwin is a PhD candidate in sociology. Her dissertation focuses on unemployment, social movements and welfare. She currently teaches at the Murphy Institute and has also taught courses at Brooklyn College, Queens College and Hunter College. She has previously worked as a freelance writer, documentary film producer, translator, and an electrician . Born and raised in New York City she is a proud product of the New York City Public School system.

 

Jeremy Randall, delegate

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 6.08.09 PMJeremy Randall is a PhD candidate in history. His dissertation focuses on the intersections of leftist political thought and culture during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). He currently serves as the Officer for Library and Technology for the Doctoral Students’ Council and is one of the program representative’s for history and has previously been an adjunct instructor at John Jay College. Currently he is a WAC fellow at Hunter College.

 

Amelia Fortunato, delegate

IMG_4122Amelia is a Doctoral Fellow in Sociology at the GC whose research focuses on the intersection of race and class in the American Labor Movement. After spending four years as a union organizer with Unite Here in Chicago, her most recent project looks at unions’ responses to the movement for black lives, examining actions taken by unions since 2014 to address anti-black racism as an issue that both impacts working class people’s lives broadly and plagues unions internally. Amelia lives in Brooklyn and teaches Sociology at John Jay College. She is an active member of the New York chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice).

 

Nicholas Glastonbury

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 6.10.08 PMNicholas Glastonbury is a PhD student in cultural anthropology at the Graduate Center and an instructor in the anthropology department at Hunter College. His dissertation research focuses on Kurdish-language radio broadcast infrastructures during the Cold War. He works as a freelance literary translator and currently serves as a co-editor of the Turkey Page for the e-zine Jadaliyya.

Running solo in the Hunter chapter election:

Andy Battle, alternate delegate

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Andy Battle is a PhD candidate in the History Department whose research focuses on how and why New York City became deindustrialized. He is also an adjunct who teaches US History to hundreds of students each year at Hunter College. He is an editor of cunystruggle.org and co-author of CUNY at the Crossroads: A History of the Mess We’re In and How to Get Out of It. Movement experience includes anti-police, anti-prison, and anti-gentrification work. In the real world he has worked as a book publicist, furniture mover, barista, shoe salesman, golf caddie, and a bunch of other jobs he can’t or won’t remember. He believes in democracy, militancy, and putting the “movement” back in labor movement.

Sean M. Kennedy was running as chair on the GC slate, but he has stepped down.

The CUNY Struggle Caucus is Challenging the Status Quo

The Graduate Center chapter of the PSC is holding an election this April, and the CUNY Struggle Caucus is challenging the status quo.

Our union has been controlled by the same caucus, the New Caucus, for 17 years. We are running a full slate against the New Caucus at the Graduate Center. Vote for us, and together we’ll transform the PSC and prepare for the fight ahead.

We stand for:

  • A broad social justice bargaining agenda
  • Democratic control of the union & university
  • Prioritizing graduate student and adjunct issues

Trump is threatening the very existence of public education, as well as the safety of many people in the CUNY system, our loved ones, and our neighbors. If you’re feeling scared, lost & alone, and have vowed to fight but aren’t sure where to start, get involved with your union, the PSC.

Democratically run unions help workers (that’s you!) secure better working conditions, and by virtue of bringing people together in struggle, they can form the basis for broader social movements.

The PSC is currently run in an undemocratic way, which is bad in its own right. But in the current political climate, it also makes us vulnerable to the impending assault on public sector unions. The longtime central leadership consists of a small group of people who have decided to double down on their losing strategy (begging politicians to give CUNY more $) rather than reckon with the gravity of the situation and build rank and file power. Under their leadership the salary gap between adjunct and tenured profs has widened (with adjuncts still making less than 30k working full-time), and both tuition and class sizes have gone up.

Affordable Housing, PSC-de Blasio Style

by Andy Battle

This morning Professional Staff Congress (PSC) President Barbara Bowen sent a message to members touting an opportunity for so-called “affordable” housing that is hilariously out of reach for all but the highest-paid members of our bargaining unit. The developers of Stuy Town, once a symbol of state-negotiated affordability where the median rent on opening day in 1947 was $71, or 15% of the median income of the average NYC family, have begrudgingly offered a lottery where if your lucky number comes up, you will have the privilege of paying $2800 for one of a limited number of one-bedroom apartments. For a two-bedroom, the price goes to $3400. In one recent such lottery, over 56,000 people applied for 86 units in a new building built along the banks of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. In Queens it was worse–93,000 applicants for 31 units. Continue reading “Affordable Housing, PSC-de Blasio Style”

What Would a Democratic PSC Look Like?

By Chris Natoli

Any active rank-and-file member of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) knows that our union is about as top-down and undemocratic as the Democratic Party. Although the PSC constitution seems to provide a reasonably democratic framework for the distribution of power and flow of decision-making, a sober examination of how the union is actually governed reveals that the structure delineated in the constitution is not tight enough to prevent the concentration of power in a clique like the New Caucus. Such an examination also suggests some crucial structural changes to further democratize our union. Continue reading “What Would a Democratic PSC Look Like?”